madina5

°°°

Concerning Humility, Tolerance, Islam, and Prejudice

The two texts below were both written in 2012 and both concern Islam and ethics. The first text is “from a reply sent, in November of 2012, to a personal correspondent living in America who enquired about my peregrinations among various religions [and] about why – as mentioned in previous correspondence – I still respected the Muslim way of life.”

The items in the second text “developed from – and in a many places summarize and/or quote from – replies I sent to various correspondents between February and November of 2012 and which correspondence concerned topics such as prejudice, my views concerning Islam and anti-Muslim groups, [and] the use of the terms culture and civilization.”

As I noted in the second text, both texts “present only my personal, fallible, opinion about such matters, and which opinion reflects the weltanschauung and the morality of my philosophy of pathei-mathos.”

I republish the texts since the problems and the attitudes described in them six years ago are still relevant – if not more relevant – now.

°°°

I. Humility and The Need for Tolerance
With Reference to Islam

Contents

° Prefatory Note
° Of Learning Humility and Tolerance
° Of Respect for Islam
° Terror and Al-Quran
° Of Islam and Violence
° Conclusion

Humility and The Need for Tolerance
(pdf)

Extract from the chapter entitled ‘Of Learning Humility and Tolerance’

“As someone who has lived an unusual and somewhat itinerant (but far from unique) life, I have a certain practical experience, over nearly fifty years, of various living religions and spiritual Ways of Life. An experience from which I have acquired the habit of respecting all those living religions and spiritual Ways: Christianity (especially Catholicism and monasticism); Buddhism; Islam; Taoism; Hinduism; Judaism; and the paganism manifest in an empathic appreciation of and a regard for Nature.

Due to this respect, there is a sadness within me because of the ignorance, intolerance, prejudice – and often the hatred – of the apparently increasing number of people, in modern Western societies, who disparage Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim way of life, and who thus seem to me to reflect and to display that hubris, that certitude-of-knowing, that lack of appreciation of the numinous, that at least in my fallible opinion and from my experience militates against the learning, the culture, the civility, that make us more than, or can make us more than, talking beings in thrall to their instincts who happen to walk upright.

My personal practical experience of, for example, Christianity, is of being raised a Catholic, and being a Catholic monk. Of Buddhism, of spending several years meditating and striving to follow the Noble Eightfold Path, including in a Buddhist monastery and with groups of Buddhists. Of Islam, of a decade living as a Muslim, performing daily Namaz (including attending Jummah Namaz in a Mosque), fasting in Ramadan, and travelling in Muslim lands. Of Taoism, of experience – in the Far East – a Taoist Martial Art and learning from a Taoist priest. Of Hinduism, of learning – in the Far East – from a Hindu lady and of over a year on my return to England continuing my learning and undertaking daily practice of Hatha Yoga according to the Haṭha Yoga Pradipika. Of paganism, of developing an empathic reverence and respect for Nature by time spent as a rural ‘gentleman of the road’, as a gardener, and by years doing outdoor manual labour on farms…..

Following a personal tragedy which suffused me with sadness and remorse and which – via pathei-mathos – ended my life-long desire for and enjoyment of practical Faustian peregrinations, there arose a years-long period of intense interior reflexion, and which reflexion included not only discovering and knowing the moral error of my immoral extremist pasts but also questions concerning the nature of faith, of God, and our desire, in times of personal grief and tragedy and remorse, and otherwise, to seek and often to need the guidance, the catharsis, of a religion or a spiritual Way.”

°°°

II. Concerning Islam, The West, Prejudice, and Islamophobia

Contents

° Prefatory Note
° Prejudice, Extremism, Islamophobia, and Culture
° Toward A Balanced View Of Islam and The West
° Concerning Islamophobia

Islam, The West, Prejudice, and Islamophobia
(pdf)

°°°


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A Non-Terrestrial View

Several times, in the last decade or so, I have – when considering certain current events, and social change, and the activities, policies, and speeches, of certain politicians – often asked myself a particular question: What impression or what conclusions would a non-terran (a hypothetical visiting alien from another star-system) have of or draw from those events, such social change, and those politicians? And what, therefore, would be the conclusions that such a non-terran would make regarding our nature, our human character, as a species?

Which answers seemed to me to depend on what criteria – ethical, experiential, ontological, and otherwise – such a non-terran might employ. Would, for instance, the home-world of such a non-terran be a place of relative peace and prosperity which, having endured millennia of conflict and war, had evolved beyond conflict and war and had also ended poverty? Would, for instance, such a non-terran view matters dispassionately, having evolved such that they are always able to control – or have developed beyond – such strong personal emotions as now, as for all of our human history, so often still seem to overwhelm we humans leading us and having led us to be selfish, to lie, to cheat, to manipulate, to use violence – and sometimes kill – in order to fulfil a personal desire?

The criteria I now (post-2011) apply to this hypothetical scenario are those derived from my own experience, and from reflecting over several years upon that experience, which criteria are of course subjective, personal, and it is thus no coincidence that they now are reflected in my philosophy of pathei-mathos. Thus the ethics I assume such an interstellar space-faring sentient non-terran might adhere to are based on honour and the apprehension of suffering and hubris that empathy provides; just as the ontology derives from a numinous awareness of how causal and fallible and transient every sentient life is in respect of the vastness of the cosmos (spatially and in terms of aeons of causal time), with such ethics and ontology a natural consequence of such a culture whose genesis is that pathei-mathos – ancestral, individual, societal – that derives from millennia of suffering, conflict, war, poverty, corruption, and oppression.

Furthermore, my reflexion on the past fifty years of human space exploration leads me to further conclude that we as a species – and perhaps every sentient species – can only venture forth, en masse, to explore and colonize new worlds when certain social and political conditions exist: when we, when perhaps every sentient species, have matured sufficiently to be able to, as individuals, control ourselves (without any internal or external coercion deriving from laws or from some belief be such belief ideological, political, or religious) and thus when we use reason and empathy as our raison d’etre and not our emotions, our desires, our egoism or some -ism or some -ology or some faith that we accept or believe in or need. For despite the technology making such space exploration and colonization now feasible for us (if only currently within our solar system) we lack the political will, the social desire, the trans-national cooperation, the vision, to realize it even given that our own habitable planet is slowly undergoing a transformation for the worse wrought by ourselves. All we have – decades after the landings on the Moon – are a few individuals inhabiting and only for a while just one Earth-orbiting space station and a few small-scale, theorized, human landings on Mars a decade or more in the future. For instead of such a vision of a new frontier which frontier a multitude of families can settle and which can be the genesis of new cultures and new human societies, all we have had in the past fifty years is more of the same: regional wars and armed conflicts; invasions, violent coups and revolutions; violent protests, the killing and imprisonment and torture of protestors and dissenters; political propaganda for this political cause or that; exploitation of resources and of other humans; terrorism, murder, rape, theft, and greed.

How then would my hypothetical space-faring alien judge us as a species, and how would such a non-terran view such squabbles – political, social, ideological, religious, and be they violent or non-violent – and such poverty, inequality, and oppression, as still seem to so bedevil almost all societies currently existing on planet Earth?

In addition, how would we as individuals – and how would our governments – interact with, and treat, such an alien were such an alien, visiting Earth incognito, to be discovered? Would we treat such an alien with respect, with honour: as a non-threatening ambassador from another world? Would any current government on Earth willingly and openly and world-wide acknowledge the existence of such extra-terrestrial life and allow Earth ambassadors from any country, and scientists, and the media, full and open access to such an alien sentient being? I have my own personal intuition regarding answers to such questions.

But, remaining undiscovered, what would our visiting alien observer report regarding Earth and ourselves on their return to their own planet? Again, I have my own personal intuition regarding answers to such questions. Which answers could well be that we are an aggressive, still rather primitive and very violent, species best avoided until such time as we might outwardly demonstrate – through perhaps having numerous peaceful, cooperating, colonies on other worlds – that we have culturally and personally, in moral terms, advanced.

Which rather – to me at least – places certain current events, social change by -isms, by -ologies, through disruption and violence and via revolution, and the activities, policies, and speeches, of certain politicians, and armed conflicts, into what I intuit is a necessary cosmic, non-terran, perspective. Which perspective is of us as a species still evolving; as having the potential and now the means to further and to consciously, and as individuals, to so evolve.

Will we do this? And how? Again, my answer – fallible as it is, repeated by me as it hereby is, and born as it is from my own pathei-mathos – is that it could well begin with us as individuals consciously deciding to change through cultivating empathy and viewing ourselves and our world in the perspective of the cosmos. Which perspective is of our smallness, our fallibility, our mortality, and of our appreciation of the numinous and thus of the need to avoid the error of hubris; an error which we mortals, millennia following millennia, have always made and which even now – even with our ancestral world-wide culture of pathei-mathos – we still commit day after day, year after year, and century after century, enshrined as such hubris seems to be in so many politicians; in -isms and -ologies; in disruptive and violent social change and revolutions; in armed conflicts, and in our very physis as human individuals: an apparently unchanged physis which so motivates so many of us to still be egoistic, to lie, to cheat, to steal, to murder, to manipulate, to be violent, and to often be motived by avarice, pride, jealousy, and a selfish sexual desire.

As someone, over one and half-thousand years ago, wrote regarding human beings:

τοῖς δὲ ἀνοήτοις καὶ κακοῖς καὶ πονηροῖς καὶ φθονεροῖς καὶ πλεονέκταις καὶ φονεῦσι καὶ ἀσεβέσι πόρρωθέν εἰμι͵ τῷ τιμωρῷ ἐκχωρήσας δαίμονι͵ ὅστις τὴν ὀξύτητα τοῦ πυρὸς προσβάλλων θρώσκει αὐτὸν αἰσθητικῶς καὶ μᾶλλον ἐπὶ τὰς ἀνομίας αὐτὸν ὁπλίζει͵ ἵνα τύχῃ πλείονος τιμωρίας͵ καὶ οὐ παύεται ἐπ΄ ὀρέξεις ἀπλέ τους τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων͵ ἀκορέστως σκοτομαχῶν͵ καὶ τοῦ τον βασανίζει͵ καὶ ἐπ΄ αὐτὸν πῦρ ἐπὶ τὸ πλεῖον αὐξάνει

“I keep myself distant from the unreasonable, the rotten, the malicious, the jealous, the greedy, the bloodthirsty, the hubriatic, instead, giving them up to the avenging daemon, who assigns to them the sharpness of fire, who visibly assails them, and who equips them for more lawlessness so that they happen upon even more vengeance. For they cannot control their excessive yearnings, are always in the darkness – which tests them – and thus increase that fire even more.” [1]

Which is basically the same understanding that Aeschylus revealed in his Oresteia trilogy many centuries before: the wisdom of pathei-mathos and the numinous pagan allegory of Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες [2], and which wisdom was also described by Milton over a millennia later by means of another allegory:

The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind.

David Myatt
2015

Extract from a letter to a personal correspondent

°°°

[1] Poemandres, 23. Corpus Hermeticum. Translated by DWM in Poemandres, A Translation and Commentary. 2014. ISBN 978-1495470684.

[2] Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 515-6

τίς οὖν ἀνάγκης ἐστὶν οἰακοστρόφος.
Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες

Who then compels to steer us?
Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies!


Susan, On Wenlock Edge

Sue, On Wenlock Edge

A Perplexing Failure To Understand
Being a slightly revised extract from a letter to a friend,
with some footnotes added post scriptum

°°°

A Perplexing Failure To Understand
(pdf)


Shurooq Amin. The Dates Of Wrath. Mixed media on canvas mounted on wood. 2012. Ayyam Gallery, Dubai.

The Dates Of Wrath

Quite By Chance

 

Quite recently, and quite by chance, I found myself in an art gallery. The paintings so wyrdfully discovered rather resonated with me, causing me in subsequent days to learn more about the art, and life, of the artist: Shurooq Amin.

For her art seemed to make a connexion between the West and Islam; a quite personal connexion for me, given my somewhat outré past involving as it did a ‘reversion’ to Islam by a former fanatical exponent of Western culture who while travelling as a Muslim in the Muslim world had, albeit briefly, been engaged to a Muslimah in Egypt.

Thus was there for me, in that gallery at that time, another and quite numinous and quite fortuitous intimation of the importance of love, of the importance of the muliebral: beyond the rather stark, and often violent, most decidedly (in my view) misogynist, patriarchal, ethos that still seems to so dominate our world, East and West.

There was also a reminder, for me, of how Art can not only sometimes transcend human manufactured causal abstractions (such as nation, religion, and ethnicity) but can also be a rather acausal vector of that slow social, non-violent, evolutionary change whereby what is numinous, honourable, and so very human, can be presenced, to the benefit of us all.

DWM
2014


Image credit:
Shurooq Amin. The Dates Of Wrath. Mixed media on canvas mounted on wood. 2012.
Ayyam Gallery, Dubai


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My weltanschauung – otherwise known as ‘the philosophy of pathei-mathos’ – is currently (2014-2015) outlined in the following four works, available both in printed format and as pdf files:

° David Myatt: The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos. 2013. 82 pages. ISBN 978-1484096642

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/numinous-way-v5c-print.pdf

° David Myatt: Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos. 2013. 60 pages. ISBN 978-1484097984

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/myatt-religion-and-pathei-mathos.pdf

° David Myatt: One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings. 2014. 46 pages. ISBN 978-1502396105.

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/one-vagabond-pathei-mathos.pdf

° David Myatt: Sarigthersa: Some Recent Essays. 50 pages. ISBN 978-1512137149

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/dwmyatt-sarigthersa-v7.pdf

°°°

Also of interest may be:

° David Myatt: Understanding And Rejecting Extremism. 58 pages. ISBN 978-1484854266

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/dwm-rejecting-extremism-v3.pdf

° J.R. Wright & R. Parker: The Mystic Philosophy of David Myatt. 56 pages. ISBN 978-1523930135

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/myatt-mystic-philosophy-second-edition.pdf

The four essays provide an introduction to the philosophy of pathei-mathos.


Image credit: NGC 206, Hubble Space Telescope


stars
The Way Of Pathei-Mathos – A Précis

 

Exordium

What I have previously described as the ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’ and the ‘way of pathei-mathos’ is simply my own weltanschauung, a weltanschauung developed over some years as a result of my own pathei-mathos. Thus, and despite whatever veracity it may or may not possess, it is only the personal insight of one very fallible individual, a fallibility proven by my decades of selfishness and by my decades of reprehensible extremism both political and religious.

Furthermore, and according to my admittedly limited understanding and limited knowledge, this philosophy does not – in essence – express anything new.  For I feel (and I use the word ‘feel’ intentionally) that I have only re-expressed what so many others, over millennia, have expressed as result of (i) their own pathei-mathos and/or (ii) their experiences/insights and/or (iii) their particular philosophical musings.

Indeed, the more I reflect upon my (perhaps pretentiously entitled) ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’ the more I reminded of so many things, such as (i) what I intuitively (and possibly incorrectly) understood nearly half a century ago about Taoism when I lived in the Far East and was taught that ancient philosophy by someone who was also trying to instruct me in a particular Martial Art, and (ii) what I as a Catholic monk felt “singing Gregorian chant in choir and which singing often connected me to what JS Bach so often so well expressed by his music; that is, connected me to what – in essence – Christianity (the allegory of the life and crucifixion of Christ) and especially monasticism manifested: an intimation of some-thing sacred causing us to know beyond words what ‘the good’ really means, and which knowing touches us if only for an instant with a very personal humility and compassion”, and (iii) what I learnt from “my first few years as a Muslim, before I adhered to a harsh interpretation of Islam; a learning from being invited into the homes of Muslim families; sharing meals with them; praying with them; learning Muslim Adab; attending Namaz at my local Mosque, and feeling – understanding – what their faith meant to them and what Islam really meant, and manifested, as a practical way of living”, and (iv) of what I discovered from several years, as a teenager, at first in the Far East and then in England, of practising Hatha Yoga according to the Pradipika and Patanjali, and (v) of what I intuited regarding Buddhism from over a year of zazen (some in a zendo) and from months of discussions with Dom Aelred Graham who had lived in a Zen monastery in Japan, and (vi) what I so painfully, so personally, discovered via my own pathei-mathos.

As a weltanschauung derived from a personal pathei-mathos, my ‘philosophy/way of pathei-mathos’ is therefore subject to revision. Thus this essay summarising my weltanschauung includes a few (2013-2014) slight revisions – mentioned, or briefly described, in some of my more recent effusions – of what was expressed in previous works of mine such as The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos (ISBN 9781484096642) and Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos: Essays and Letters Regarding Spirituality, Humility, and A Learning From Grief (ISBN 9781484097984).

°°°

 

The Way Of Pathei-Mathos

1. Ontology

The ontology is of causal and acausal being, with (i) causal being as revealed by phainómenon, by the five Aristotelian essentials and thus by science with its observations and theories and principle of ‘verifiability’, and (ii) acausal being as revealed by συμπάθεια – by the acausal knowing (of living beings) derived from faculty of empathy [1] – and thus of the distinction between the ‘time’ (the change) of living-beings and the ‘time’ described via the measurement of the observed or the assumed/posited/predicted movement of ‘things’ [2].

2. Epistemology

a. The primacy of pathei-mathos: of a personal pathei-mathos being one of the primary means whereby we can come to know the true φύσις (physis) of Being, of beings, and of our own being; a knowing beyond ‘abstractions’, beyond the concealment implicit in manufactured opposites, by ipseity (the separation-of-otherness), and by denotatum.

b. Adding the ‘acausal knowing’ revealed by the (muliebral) faculty of empathy to the conventional, and causal (and somewhat masculous), knowing of science and logical philosophical speculation, with the proviso that what such ‘acausal knowing’ reveals is (i) of φύσις, the relation between beings, and between beings and Being, and thus of ‘the separation-of-otherness’, and (ii) the personal and numinous nature of such knowing in the immediacy-of-the-moment, and which empathic knowing thus cannot be abstracted out from that ‘living moment’ via denotatum: by (words written or spoken), or be named or described or expressed (become fixed or ‘known’) by any dogma or any -ism or any -ology, be such -isms or -ologies conventionally understood as political, religious, ideological, or social.

c. Describing a human, and world-wide and ancestral, ‘culture of pathei-mathos’ [3], and which culture of pathei-mathos could form part of Studia Humanitatis and thus of that education that enables we human beings to better understand our own φύσις [4].

3. Ethics

a. Of personal honour – which presences the virtues of fairness, tolerance, compassion, humility, and εὐταξία – as (i) a natural intuitive (wordless) expression of the numinous (‘the good’, δίκη, συμπάθεια) and (ii) of both what the culture of pathei-mathos and the acausal-knowing of empathy reveal we should do (or incline us toward doing) in the immediacy of the personal moment when personally confronted by what is unfair, unjust, and extreme [5].

b. Of how such honour – by its and our φύσις – is and can only ever be personal, and thus cannot be extracted out from the  ‘living moment’ and our participation in the moment; for it only through such things as a personal study of the culture of pathei-mathos and the development of the faculty of empathy that a person who does not naturally possess the instinct for δίκη can develope what is essentially ‘the human faculty of honour’, and which faculty is often appreciated and/or discovered via our own personal pathei-mathos.

4. One fallible, personal, answer regarding the question of human existence

Of understanding ourselves in that supra-personal, and cosmic, perspective that empathy, honour, and pathei-mathos – and thus an awareness of the numinous and of the acausal – incline us toward, and which understanding is: (i) of ourselves as a finite, fragile, causal, viatorial, microcosmic, affective effluvium [6] of Life (ψυχή) and thus connected to all other living beings, human, terran, and non-terran, and (ii) of there being no supra-personal goal to strive toward because all supra-personal goals are and have been just posited – assumed, abstracted – goals derived from the illusion of ipseity, and/or from some illusive abstraction, and/or from that misapprehension of our φύσις that arises from a lack of empathy, honour, and pathei-mathos.

For a living in the moment, in a balanced – an empathic, honourable – way, presences our φύσις as conscious beings capable of discovering and understanding and living in accord with our connexion to other life; which understanding inclines us to avoid the hubris that causes or contributes to the suffering of other life, with such avoidance a personal choice not because it is conceived as a path toward some posited thing or goal – such as nirvana or Jannah or Heaven or after-life – and not because we might be rewarded by God, by the gods, or by some supra-personal divinity, but rather because it manifests the reality, the truth – the meaning – of our being. The truth that (i) we are (or we are capable of being) one affective consciously-aware connexion to other life possessed of the capacity to cause suffering/harm or not to cause suffering/harm, and (ii) we as an individual are but one viator manifesting the change – the being, the φύσις – of the Cosmos/mundus toward (a) a conscious awareness (an aiding of ψυχή), or (b) stasis, or (c) as a contributor toward a decline, toward a loss of ψυχή.

Thus, there is a perceiveration of our φύσις; of us as – and not separate from – the Cosmos: a knowledge of ourselves as the Cosmos presenced (embodied, incarnated) in a particular time and place and in a particular way. Of how we affect or can affect other effluvia, other livings beings, in either a harmful or a non-harming manner. An apprehension, that is, of the genesis of suffering and of how we, as human beings possessed of the faculties of reason, of honour, and of empathy, have the ability to cease to harm other living beings. Furthermore, and in respect of the genesis of suffering, this particular perceiveration provides an important insight about ourselves, as conscious beings; which insight is of the division we mistakenly but understandably make, and have made, consciously or unconsciously, between our own being – our ipseity – and that of other living beings, whereas such a distinction is only an illusion – appearance, hubris, a manufactured abstraction – and the genesis of such suffering as we have inflicted for millennia, and continue to inflict, on other life, human and otherwise.

David Myatt
September 2014

Notes

[1] Refer to: (i) The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendiary (pdf, Third Edition, 2012), and (ii) Towards Understanding The Acausal, 2011.

[2] Refer to Time And The Separation Of Otherness – Part One, 2012.

[3] The culture of pathei-mathos is the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals, world-wide, over thousands of years, as (i) described in memoirs, aural stories, and historical accounts; as (ii) have inspired particular works of literature or poetry or drama; as (iii) expressed via non-verbal mediums such as music and Art, and as (iv) manifest in more recent times by ‘art-forms’ such as films and documentaries.

[4] Refer to Education and The Culture of Pathei-Mathos, 2014.

[5] By ‘extreme’ is meant ‘to be harsh’, unbalanced, intolerant, prejudiced, hubriatic.

[6] As mentioned elsewhere, I now prefer the term effluvium, in preference to emanation, in order to try and avoid any potential misunderstanding. For although I have previously used the term ’emanation’ in my philosophy of pathei-mathos as a synonym of effluvium, ’emanation’ is often understood in the sense of some-thing proceeding from, or having, a source; as for example in theological use where the source is considered to be God or some aspect of a divinity. Effluvium, however,  has (so far as I am aware) no theological connotations and accurately describes the perceiveration: a flowing of what-is, sans the assumption of a primal cause, and sans a division or a distinction between ‘us’ – we mortals – and some-thing else, be this some-thing else God, a divinity, or some assumed, ideated, cause, essence, origin, or form.


Glasgow University library: MS Hunter 374 fol.4r
Education And The Culture Of Pathei-Mathos

 

One of the many subjects that I have pondered upon in the last few years is the role of education and whether a learning of our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos – understood and appreciated as a distinct culture [1], and thence as an academic subject – could possibly aid us, as a species, to change; aid us to become more honourable, more compassionate, less egoistical, less violent, as individuals, and thus aid us to possibly avoid in our own lives those hubriatic errors, and causing the suffering, that the culture of pathei-mathos reveals are not only unethical but also which we humans make and cause and have made and caused again and again and again. That is, can a knowledge and appreciation of this culture, perhaps learnt individually and/or in institutions such as schools and colleges, provide with us with that empathic, supra-personal, perspective which I personally – as a result of my own learning and experiences – am inclined to feel could change, evolve, us not only as individuals but as a species?

Studia Humanitatis

For thousands of years – from the classical world to the Renaissance to fairly recent times – Studia Humanitatis (an appreciation and understanding of our φύσις as human beings) was considered to be the basis of a good, a sound, education.

Thus, for Cicero, Studia Humanitatis implied forming and shaping the manners, the character, and the knowledge, of young people through them acquiring an understanding of subjects such as philosophy, geometry, rhetoric, music, and litterarum cognitio (literary culture). This was because the classical weltanschauung was a paganus one: an apprehension of the complete unity (a cosmic order, κόσμος, mundus) beyond the apparent parts of that unity, together with the perceiveration that we mortals – albeit a mere and fallible part of the unity – have been gifted with our existence so that we may perceive and understand this unity, and, having so perceived, may ourselves seek to be whole, and thus become as balanced (perfectus) [2], as harmonious, as the unity itself:

Neque enim est quicquam aliud praeter mundum quoi nihil absit quodque undique aptum atque perfectum expletumque sit omnibus suis numeris et partibus […] ipse autem homo ortus est ad mundum contemplandum et imitandum – nullo modo perfectus, sed est quaedam particula perfecti. [3]

Furthermore, this paganus natural balance implied an acceptance by the individual of certain communal responsibilities and duties; of such responsibilities and duties, and their cultivation, as a natural and necessary part of our existence as mortals.

In the Christian societies of Renaissance Europe, Studia Humanitatis became more limited, to subjects such as history, moral philosophy, poetry, certain classical authors, and Christian writers such as Augustine and Jerome, with the general intent being a self improvement with the important proviso that this concentration on the advancement of the individual to ‘noble living’ by means of ‘noble examples’ (classical and Christian) should not conflict with the Christian weltanschauung [4] and its perceiveration of obedience to whatever interpretation of Christian faith and eschatology the individual favoured or believed in. In more recent times, Studia Humanitatis has become the academic study of ‘the liberal arts’, the ‘humanities’, often as a means to equip an individual with certain personal skills – such as the ability to communicate effectively and to rationally analyse problems – which might be professionally useful in later life.

However, the culture of pathei-mathos provides an addition to the aforementioned Studia Humanitatis, and an addition where the focus is not on a particular weltanschauung (paganus, Christian, liberal, or humanist) but rather on our shared pathei-mathos: on what we and others have learnt, and can learn, about our human φύσις from experience of grief, suffering, trauma, injustice. For it is such personal learning from experience, or the records of or the influence of the experiences of others, which is not only the essence of much of what we, and others for thousands of years, have appreciated and learned from some of the individual subjects or fields of learning that formed the basis for the aforementioned Studia Humanitatis – history, litterarum cognitio, and music, for example – but also what, at least in my view, provides us with perhaps the deepest, but most certainly with the most poignant, insight into our φύσις as human beings.

Thus considered as an individual subject or field of learning, academic or otherwise, the culture of pathei-mathos would most certainly help to form and shape the manners, the character, the knowledge, of young people, for it has the potential to provide us with a perception and an understanding of the supra-personal unity – the mundus – of which we are a mortal part, and thus perhaps can aid us to become as inwardly balanced, as harmonious, as the unity beyond and encompassing us, bringing as such a perception, understanding, and balance, does that appreciation and empathic intuition of others which is compassion and aiding as such compassion does the cessation of the suffering that an unbalanced – a hubriatic, egoistical – human φύσις causes and has caused for so many millennia.

Can we therefore, as described in the Pœmandres tractate,

hasten through the harmonious structure, offering up, in the first realm, that vigour which grows and which fades, and – in the second one – those dishonourable machinations, no longer functioning. In the third, that eagerness which deceives, no longer functioning; in the fourth, the arrogance of command, no longer insatiable; in the fifth, profane insolence and reckless haste; in the sixth, the bad inclinations occasioned by riches, no longer functioning; and in the seventh realm, the lies that lie in wait. [5]

For is not to so journey toward the unity “the noble goal of those who seek to acquire knowledge?”

But if we cannot make that or a similar personal journey; if we do not or cannot learn from our human culture of pathei-mathos, from the many thousands of years of such suffering as that culture documents and presents and remembers; if we no longer concern ourselves with de studiis humanitatis ac litterarum, then do we as a sentient species deserve to survive? For if we cannot so learn, cannot so change, cannot so educate ourselves, or are not so educated in such subjects, then it seems to me we may never be able to escape to the freedom and the natural evolution, the diversity, that await among the star-systems of our Galaxy. For what awaits us if we, the unlearned, stay unchanged, are only repetitions of the periodicity of human-caused suffering until such time as we exhaust, lay waste, make extinct, our cultures, our planet, and finally ourselves. And no other sentient life, elsewhere in the Cosmos, would mourn our demise.

David Myatt
May 2014

From a letter sent to a personal correspondent. Some footnotes have been added, post scriptum, in an effort to elucidate some parts of the text and provide appropriate references.

Notes

[1] I define the culture of pathei-mathos as the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals, world-wide, over thousands of years, as (i) described in memoirs, aural stories, and historical accounts; as (ii) have inspired particular works of literature or poetry or drama; as (iii) expressed via non-verbal mediums such as music and Art, and as (iv) manifest in more recent times by ‘art-forms’ such as films and documentaries.

The culture of pathei-mathos thus includes not only traditional accounts of, or accounts inspired by, personal pathei-mathos, old and modern – such as the With The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and the poetry of people as diverse as Sappho and Sylvia Plath – but also works or art-forms inspired by such pathei-mathos, whether personal or otherwise, and whether factually presented or fictionalized. Hence films such as Monsieur Lazhar and Etz Limon may poignantly express something about our φύσις as human beings and thus form part of the culture of pathei-mathos.

[2] A pedantic aside: it is my considered opinion that the English term ‘balanced’ (a natural completeness, a natural equilibrium) is often a better translation of the classical Latin perfectus than the commonly accepted translation of ‘perfect’, given what the English word ‘perfect’ now imputes (as in, for example, ‘cannot be improved upon’), and given the association of the word ‘perfect’ with Christian theology and exegesis (as, for example, in suggesting a moral perfection).

[3] M. Tullius Cicero, De Natura Deorum, Liber Secundus, xiii, xiv, 37

[4] q.v. Bruni d’Arezzo, De Studiis et Litteris. Leipzig, 1496.

[5] My translation of the Greek text. From Mercvrii Trismegisti Pymander de potestate et sapientia dei – A Translation and Commentary. 2013. A pdf version is available here – pymander-hermetica-pdf


Image credit: Glasgow University library: MS Hunter 374 fol.4r

Boethius Consolation of Philosophy